Tuesday, May 01, 2012

on being overly apologetic

I never thought I had a problem with saying "Sorry" until I apologized to a chair.
"Sorry!" I gasped as I barreled past, almost knocking it to the floor. "I mean--nothing--chair--" and then I stopped talking, because I realized I looked like a big enough fool already.

But this issue of over-apologetic-ness has come to a point where even my biology teacher told me to "stop saying sorry!" Apparently, now that I'm aware of the word, I use it everywhere. I say, "Sorry" when I'm beginning to ask a question to a busy person, "Sorry" after a near-miss collision in the school hallway, "Sorry" to car drivers who patiently wait for me to run across the street (even though they probably can't hear me mumble)...all this despite the fact that, really, I've done nothing wrong.

With this unnecessary use of the word you might think that I'm an awesome apologizer (which, by the way, is not a word, though it totally should be). Not true. I can't remember the last time I apologized without the strange habit of crossing my fingers to invalidate it (blame it on a childhood filled with perceived injustices in sibling disputes, alright?)

So yeah, I really have a problem with the word "Sorry."



  1. Your perfect writing style... now pierced by this kind of idiosyncratic, conversational language. Suddenly your blog has a voice which sounds more like yours? Or is this a reflection of your versatility as a writer?

    ...or, maybe just frustrated by too much self-awareness.

  2. It sounds like you're Canadian:)

  3. I have the same problem! What else can you say to get the point across to people that you're sorry? "Sorry" is pretty much the only word for it.

  4. In the culture of the local people where I live, they say 'sorry' if you hurt youself (bump your toe/head).

    I always found this strange, but recently found myself saying it too...

  5. Saying sorry or being apologetic are the special skills that reflect the respectfulness in our living approach with the society. But, you do not need to look down yourself when doing so, but can be proud that you recognize the living adjustments that others are making for you and you are making for others.

  6. Are you Canadian?

  7. Anonymous8:15 PM

    I feel like that I have a trouble saying sorry too! my friends tells me to stop, but it is so hard.

  8. It sometimes looks like weirdo, when you say sorry to furniture, but it is a good thing to say sorry. It's much better than just egnoring^^

  9. My spelling checker assures me that '"apologiser" is correct because of root "apologise"'. (This is 'ispell' in GNU Emacs.) If you've ever read Steven Pinker (try "The Language Instinct" or "Words and Rules") you'll know we shouldn't be too pernickety about self-derived usage. If you only read one chapter, try "The Language Mavens" which is chapter 12 of "The Language Instinct" and you can find a free copy of that chapter online if you search. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

    Sorry to hear that your saying 'sorry' has got on someone's nerves. But at least apologising too much is better than not enough. I'm legally blind and I too find myself always apologising, in the hope that it might make people feel better about any navigational blunders I might be making without realising it, although sometimes I find I have in fact apologised to empty space. When I visited Germany I made sure to learn the word for "sorry", and I'm glad I did, because when the family I was staying with lent me a key to their apartment, I somehow got confused which door was which, and tried to unlock their neighbours' door much to the neighbour's chagrin. I really should have learned more German before going there; my second language is Mandarin and I found myself looking for Chinese people on the street to ask directions. You probably know from your mum that in Mandarin we start with 对不起 duìbuqǐ which is another kind of "sorry"....

  10. Hopefully you'll gain a confidence, as it can be very annoying to people who see it as a subtle form of manipulation...to bend their emotions toward your will or feelings toward you in advance in order to avoid some form of conflict that doesn't exist in the first place..Though it is understand and nice at first, after a time it's something much deeper, if said to much, it's not eve polite any more.